the boy and the theatre girl: an excerpt.

As per the norm, I can’t really get you guys anything for Christmas… except my writing.  Seemed fitting, especially since you stayed with me after I spent almost a year in hibernation.  So here you go – the beginning of ‘The Boy and the Theatre Girl,’ my NaNo18 novel.  Thank you so much for your friendship, and Merry Christmas!

keaton henson // the pugilist

I’d always thought it incredibly sexy whenever someone correctly used a semicolon. Honestly, it should be called a sexicolon. Comma splices are used way too often now. It’s like there’s a widespread panic to use them up, even incorrectly, before they’re gone. As if there are a finite amount of commas in the world. Please. Just switch it out with a semicolon and, barring any other grammatical errors, I’d be yours forever.

Now, granted, being “yours forever” would provide that I actually talk to the person. I’d always heard that fluent communication is the key to relationships, even if I’d never really seen it played out in my own life. But maybe this communication could occur via the written word instead of verbal.

Another assumed factor in this fairy tale scenario is that someone would actually take the time to try to communicate with me. This is the most fantastical of the factors in this scenario.

It wasn’t that I was a hard person to talk to. I’d always thought of myself as a very approachable person. Shorter than the average twelve-year-old, I didn’t really look like a kid anymore. Honestly, it was the part about talking with me that tripped people up.

I could spend a long time explaining my reasons why, but the short and sweet answer was that I didn’t talk. The shorter and slightly more bittersweet reason was that I couldn’t. I used to, but for the last four years, I haven’t said a word.

The last family I stayed with only lasted a week. They were convinced I couldn’t actually talk – that I had been born a mute – and that my “special needs” and “disabilities” were, to quote the file Sheri had unsuccessfully tried to hide from me, “more than they could handle at the time.”

I was surprised; I thought they’d only last three days tops. That’s how long the previous family had kept me, but the reason I was taken away from them after such a short time had more to do with the fact that they had beaten me repeatedly. They’d claimed my inability to speak was due to rebellion and that, if they just showed me who was really in charge, they could “break my will.” But what they didn’t know – what nobody seems to understand – is that I was willing to feel a little temporary pain. It was better than the alternative.

I had learned the hard way that sometimes it’s just best to keep your mouth shut. I’d kept it shut ever since.

All of this lazily tumbled through my head as I sat on the bed, my tattered and dog-eared notebook in my lap and my worn backpack beside me as I mulled over how to word something I’d been trying to write in the notebook for the last hour. I had inserted a semicolon between two phrases and it had rounded out the stanza so nicely that I had to take a moment to admire it.

A knock sounded on my door, and I looked up as Mr. Jackson poked his head in. “Ten minutes, Zach.”

I nodded.

Mr. Jackson glanced around the room, looking anywhere except at me before finally fixing his gaze on me. “You ready?”

Again, I nodded.

After a moment, he nodded back, knocked twice on the door, then stepped back, closing it in front of him.

I looked down at my notebook, but none of the words would focus.

This always happened. I was always, constantly, endlessly in a cycle of hellos, attempts at adapting, not fitting in, and goodbyes. It would never end. Not until I aged out.

I blinked a few times, then frowned and rubbed my nose.

Six more years.

Closing my eyes and shaking my head as if to clear the cobwebs inside seemed to help a little. After a moment, the words became less blurry. I clicked my pen and continued.

Twenty-one minutes later, I sat in the back seat of Sheri’s car, my arms around my backpack and my head leaning against the window. I didn’t watch the Jackson’s house fade in the distance. It had been a while since I’d done that with any of the houses I’d left. It was better that way.

“You just had a birthday, didn’t you?”

I opened my eyes and caught Sheri’s gaze in the rearview mirror. I nodded, feeling the tension slowly start to ease out of my shoulders.

“I think there’s such a big gap between eleven and twelve. Obviously not in age, but in mentality. Twelve just seems so much older. Right?” She looked back at me and I nodded back. I knew what she meant. “And don’t even get me started on thirteen. You can never turn thirteen, okay?”

I didn’t smile, but my face softened and I felt my the knots in my insides slowly release a little. Only Sheri knew how to do that.

“Remind me before we get to the Keller’s that I have a present for you in the trunk, okay? I got it the other day and was going to bring it to the Jackson’s, but then there was this situation with two sets of triplets – triplets, Zachary, and two sets of them – and the time just got away from me. You should’ve seen them. So cute. Both sets were identical, so that made for a very interesting weekend…”

I listened to Sheri ramble as I stared out the window. It was easy between us. It’d always been that way. Even when I’d leave a house and everything was awful and it didn’t feel like it would ever get better, I knew I’d see Sheri and, for at least a few hours, everything would be okay.

As my social worker, she knew everything about me, so she was the only person who never pressured me to talk or asked any awkward questions about my past. She was the only person in the world who understood me, but knowing there was at least one person out there who could help me, even on my very worst days… it just helped.

“So this family has a cat – did I tell you that?”

She glanced over her shoulder and I shook my head, letting go of my train of thought.

“An orange tabby,” she told me, flicking on her blinker as she pulled onto an exit ramp. “You know I despise cats, but I hope you can be friends with him. I think his name’s something Shakespearean – Hamlet? Macbeth? I don’t know. Anyway, I think he’s sweet. They said he was. But that’s an oxymoron. A sweet cat? Are you kidding me?”

I pursed my lips, but knew that my dimple had made an appearance. After all these years, she’d been the only one who’d consistently been able to make it appear. Of course, she was the only consistent factor in my life over the course of those years.

“Now, they’re a little farther away than I like for you to be,” Sheri continued, briefly glancing back at me again, “so you’ll be in a different school. I’ve already talked to some of your new teachers, though, and I’m pretty sure you’ll be ahead in some subjects. The best thing about staying with the Jacksons was definitely the school. Good decision on everyone’s part.”

She cleared her throat and I stared at the rearview mirror, noticing how she looked everywhere except at me.

“However,” she said, her grip tightening on the wheel for a split second, “Mrs. Keller has tossed around the idea of homeschool. It’d be mostly cyberschool, with some textbook learning. No co-op, no tutors, nothing with physical interaction.” She braked at a stoplight and turned back to me. “How does that sound? Something you’d be interested in?”

I held her gaze for a moment, then looked at the center console. Thoughts rushed around my head in chaotic swirls like money in a money machine, and I, its confused occupant, was unable to grasp at any of them.

“Want to at least try?” she asked softly.

Homeschool was something I’d heard of and almost wanted to do since before I got into the system, but it always seemed more like a pipe dream. It scared me, but the thought of pushing through bodies and standing awkwardly in front of teachers as they tried to make me talk scared me even more.

After a while, I nodded.

Sheri smiled. “You’re a good kid, Zach. You know that?”

I felt my face grow slightly red and my gaze flickered up to Sheri’s as I tried not to smile too widely.

Suddenly, a car behind us honked their horn, making Sheri jump and spin around.

“Gosh, can’t they wait a second?!” she shouted, accelerating. “Trying to have a moment with my favorite boy here!”

I snorted in my attempt to conceal my laughter. Sheri glanced at me in the rear-view mirror, beaming with glistening eyes.

“Sappiness aside, I really think you’re gonna like this family.”

I leaned my head against the window and closed my eyes, just listening.

“I know I don’t say that about every family, because it sure as hell isn’t true for every family.” She turned on her blinker, tapping her finger against the wheel as she waited for a chance to merge. Sheri’s language usually grew a little flowery whenever she was in a stressful driving situation, and it appeared that today was no exception. “But I’m serious about this one. Their daughter Emilie is seventeen and an only child, so you don’t have to worry about little ones invading your personal space. And they’ve all obviously been made aware of your situation, so you shouldn’t have a problem with that, either.” She glanced back at me for a second before merging. “Sorry about the Jackson’s kids, by the way. I didn’t know it was going to be an issue.”

I opened my mouth slightly, feeling the words “It’s okay” pushing against the edge of my lips. But, as always, I couldn’t say it. I swallowed and just smiled up at her a little.

I’d never been closer to speaking to anyone than I’d been with Sheri. I felt so at ease around her that I knew if I could talk around her, I would. But every time I seemed to make it to that point – to maybe, almost, possibly saying a word or two – she’d drop me off and drive away for who knows how long.

I understood why, and it wasn’t like I was mad at her or anything. After all, it was her job. I just always wished we could have a little more time together. Then maybe I could finally talk to somebody. Maybe.

a smol update.

As some of you may have guessed, YES, starting a full-time job (with an hour commute on a no-traffic day), being the lead female role in a play that performed seven shows over three weekends, and random little things was too much.

Guess what fell to the wayside? Yep – NaNo.

I did, however, get ten thousand words written, and was very proud of myself.

All this to say, if you guys would like the first few thousand words as a Christmas present, let me know!

(Also check out my Facebook because I posted some pictures from the play!)

back in the saddle again.

9cdfc65f63bb6d5d3f9299411e932ecd.jpg

{for le blog aesthetic // not mine}

NaNoWriMo 2017. Day One.

This year feels different. I have less of a plan than usual (not to be confused with the time I wrote a NaNo novel starting only with characters and no plot whatsoever), but this is a story that’s been tumbling around my head for the past ten years.

Obviously, it looks different than what I first thought it was going to look like, but that’s okay. It’s deeper now, and more fleshed out – not to mention I’m actually able to write a lot of it based on personal experience.

If any of you remember those two scenes I wrote for school last semester about the little foster care boy… yeah, this is that story.

My Pinterest board for this story is now public, and I’ll be updating via this blog hopefully once a week. However, I’m starting a new job in a week and I’m the lead in a play, so bear with me if I forget.

I’m super excited about this project – almost more so than anything else I’ve done – and I can’t wait to share it with you guys!

(PS: It’s called The Boy and the Theatre Girl.)

story snippet | the boy and the theatre girl.

(This story’s been tumbling around in my mind for years, and I think it’s the next thing I’m going to work on.  I’ve started a secret Pinterest board for it, which I’ll be making public sometime in the nearish future.  Anyway, I submitted this snippet and another for a course and got good grades on both of them, which made me super happy.  The first snippet can be found here.  Oh and the main character is a 13-year-old boy named Zach.  Enjoy!)

I flop backwards on my bed and stare at the ceiling.

Emilie’s gone.

I won’t see her ’til Thanksgiving. Maybe before then, if she finds a free weekend to come visit, but plane tickets are expensive and I don’t have enough money to pay for her to come.

I start thinking about school and how I’ll handle the next school year without her and that I’ll have to handle it all by myself and if I’ll be able to get good grades or if I’ll just barely pass all of my classes again like before and my chest starts heaving and my heart starts pounding and I have to close my eyes and think of the ocean for a few minutes before I can calm down.

Mrs. Parker knocks on my door after a while and asks if I want any dinner but I don’t say anything. I’ve lost my voice. Again.

“It’ll be on the table in twenty minutes if you want it,” she says. A few seconds later, she says, “I’m here if you want to talk or just need somebody to sit with.”

I wish I could tell her how much I appreciate it. I wish I could just open the door and hug her and cry and let her hug me back and talk about everything I’m stressing out about.

But I can’t.

My voice is gone again and I don’t know where to find it.

“I’ll come check on you again in a little while.”

I nod, even though I know she can’t see it. She walks away after a moment and I’m alone.

I trace the constellations on the ceiling with my gaze. They’ve been up there for almost a year now, and haven’t moved a fraction of an inch since. I wish my life were like that – predictable and settled, instead of erratic and unreliable.

Tears start to well up in my eyes as a lump forms in the back of my throat.

No.

I flip over, grab my notebook, and start writing before I let myself sink any further. I spill my thoughts across the page, somehow focusing through blurry vision. Sentences are scratched out, arrows drawn to switch things around, words are circled and starred. Even as I write, I’m struck by how much better this is than trying to write it out on the computer. “Your mind works too quickly for the computer to keep up,” Emilie once told me. I realize she was right.

As I start on my fourth page, I finally start to feel the words ebb away. The lump is gone, and only one tear smudged the page. I hit the middle of the sixth page and realize I’m done, so I flip back to the beginning and start copying the poem on fresh pages, revising it slightly, but trying to leave it clean and readable.

I’ll send it to her in my first letter, I decide. And then she can tape it on her dorm wall and it’ll remind her of me.

I finish copying out the poem and read over it twice. I’m satisfied with how it turned out, but it’s not the kind of poem to make me smile. Not like the last one I sent her. That one was borne out of good feelings. This one’s not.

I close my notebook, roll over to my back, and hug it to my chest as I stare at the constellations again. The moonlight streaming through the window dimly lights the room, but the stars on the ceiling are shining brightly. I’m glad Emilie put them there. I can’t see the real stars outside because of the city lights, but these are good enough.

A while later, my phone buzzes. I consider leaving it, but then I remember that it might be Emilie. I grab it and turn it on, and my heart jumps when I realize it is her. She’s sent me her new address, along with a heart and a “Write soon – I can’t wait to talk to you again. Miss you already!!!”

I take a shaky breath as tears burn my eyes. This time, though, they’re happy tears. I smile and close my eyes, letting them overflow. The thought that someone wants to hear from me – and even misses me – makes my heart and mind soar. I’ve never known love to be this huge.

I hug the notebook tighter and let myself cry.

story snippet | the boy and the theatre girl.

I’m back with another story snippet from my writing course.  Again, this is all I have (so far), but you’d better get used to this story, kids, because I think this is the one I want to flesh out.  What do you think?


The Boy and the Theatre Girl

I haven’t spoken a word since the day my mom died in my arms. I’m only twelve, but I’ve already seen more than anyone needs to see in their entire life. I can’t watch war movies now. Can’t stand fireworks. Can’t be around a police officer with a gun. (Especially the one who came to bring me to my first foster parents’ home. That made for an interesting afternoon.)

Don’t get me wrong – I can talk. I just don’t want to. It was my stupid talking that altered the burglar to our presence and I’m not making a mistake like that ever again.

Besides. It’s not like I have anything interesting to say anymore.

They’re bringing me to my next foster family tonight. We were supposed to meet at a park, but then they found out that there’s this huge parade at the park and thought it’d be best to avoid that. They know me. They know what I do.

As I pack my things, I wonder for the thousandth time why the Kellers can’t keep me. They’re the fifth family who’s given me up. I know why, but I refuse to believe that it’s just my unwillingness to talk. There must be something else wrong with me. I’m pretty stupid, too – I haven’t gotten a B in any school subject in three years. Scraping along with Cs and Ds is my life now.

That’s probably what it is, I think to myself, shoving my t-shirts in my suitcase. They don’t want a stupid foster kid. All their children are prodigies and I’m… the opposite.

“Almost ready to go?”

I freeze, then turn and nod.

Mr. Keller smiles. “Great.”

He taps his fingers on the doorframe and take three deep breaths. I wait.

“Listen…” He pauses, then continues, avoiding my eyes the entire time. “I know it’s been hard for you. Pretty rough, what you went through. And I’m sorry we can’t keep you.” He looks at me now with a sad smile. “But I hope you do well in this new family. I know you will. They’re a sweet family. Stay in touch, okay?”
I nod once, then turn around again and continue packing. I feel Mr. Keller’s presence behind me for a while but ignore him, hoping he’ll go away. He does, eventually, leaving me with my thoughts.

Great.

My thoughts overtake me for the rest of the afternoon, the silent drive with Mr. Keller to the new foster family’s house, and even on their front doorstep. Mr. Keller rings the bell and I stand there, holding the handle of my suitcase with one hand and my messenger bag with the other, my thoughts flying all around my brain and smacking the sides like demonic butterflies.

What will I do now? Will this new family like me? Will I be good enough for them? Will my grades get better so they like me more than anybody else has?

As soon as the door opens, the demonic butterfly thoughts freeze and it’s as if my heart freezes with them.

Whoa.

“Hey!” the girl says, beaming like a goddess. “Mom and Dad went out to get ice cream, then they got stuck in traffic, so it’s just me. You can come on in,” she continues, pulling the door open all the way and standing partially behind it. She looks down the driveway at the car. “Anybody else?”

“No, it’s just us,” Mr. Keller replies, stepping inside.

I barely notice this interaction. It’s taking all of my self-control to not just drop my jaw and stare at the girl for the rest of my life. I yank my suitcase over the threshold and rack my brain, trying to remember her name and wishing I’d paid more attention to the social worker.

Speaking of, where is she?

“Oh, good; you made it,” I hear Janet say right before she appears behind the girl.

I let out a string of curses in my mind and avoid Janet’s eyes.

“You can put your stuff over here,” the girl says to me.

I’m still trying to get over the fact that she spoke to me as she leads me to the family room down the hall. I set my suitcase against the wall and set my messenger bag on top of it.

“Is this all you have?” the girl asks, a hint of sadness in her voice.

I fiddle with the strap of my bag while I try to figure out what she means by that. Before I can shrug or nod, she puts her hand out.

“I’m Emilie.”

I take it, look up at her, and nod.

She smiles brightly and the butterflies materialize in my stomach.

“I’ve been looking forward to meeting you, Zach.”

I try to smile back at her, but it probably looks more like a grimace. I’ve got to get better at that.

“I asked Mom and Dad if you could be in the room across the hall from me. I hope that’s not weird…?”

I shake my head firmly, the only thing going through my mind being SHE’S STILL HOLDING MY HAND.

“Great!” She lets go of my hand, grins, and opens her mouth to say something else, but is interrupted by the door opening. She turns, leans over a little to check, and smiles at me. “That’s Mom and Dad.”

I follow her down the hall, focusing only on her cherry red hair. I’ve never seen anything that resembles fire that much except, well… fire.

She stops in front of the man and woman – obviously her parents – and holds out a hand towards me.

“Mom, Dad – this is Zach.”

She smiles over her shoulder at me and I know I’m done for.

Uh oh.